Nov 12 2019

The Belfast Sink…

Published by at 10:05 pm under News

‘Now, it may seem strange to some people for me to remember this but it’s almost like it happened yesterday. I remember standing in our Belfast kitchen sink when I was about five years of age and the older sister giving me a good scrub in preparation for Santy on the night before Christmas. Then she got me to stand up and step out onto the kitchen chair, the only one we had at that time, and she drying me in the half of an old bedsheet. She asked me what Santy was going to bring me and I told her I wanted a cowboy suit with a gun and holster. Then she put me standing by the fire to get a heat before going up to bed and she then started washing my little sister, Anne.
When I was all dried she put my vest on me because that’s all I wore back then to bed, she took me in her arms and carried me up the stairs. She told me that I’d have to kneel down beside the bed to say my prayers and ask Holy God to tell Santy what I wanted. Over the years the Da’ used to write all the letters to Santy for us little ones who couldn’t write, it was gas when I think of it because there was no such thing as a Biro or that, he had to use a pen and ink and he’d put some ink on one of our fingers and get us to press it on our individual letters so that Santy would know which of us it was from. I think this was something he had learned in the army.
I remember so well standing by the blazing fire that the Ma’ had put together with an old shoe and a bucket of slack and cinders and bits of potatoe skins and stuff like that and gazing up in wonderment at our Christmas Tree, it was pure magic for a five year old to see the fairy lights glowing in the semi darkness of our kitchen. I suppose in some way it was what I imagined Heaven would be like. The Ma’ would take down her home-made pudding that was handing up in our back porch in a pillow case and cut a slice for Santy while the Da’ poured out a glass of Stout for him as well and of course poor oul Rudolph with the red nose had to be included, he got half a carrot, the older brother ate the other half.
I know now that back in the 1950’s the Ma’ and Da’ certainly didn’t have much and I’m sure we barely got by on what they did have but they never let us down when it came to Christmas. The poor Ma’ would sit up half of the night looking after the bit of meat and the skinniest turkey you ever saw, that was cooking in our gas oven. The Da’ would be there playing his part in helping to clean and tidy the place because Baby Jesus was about to arrive at any minute. And sure our few decorations were always the same ones that went up every year. We had a little cardboard Santy that opened out and his fat belly would stick out and we had an Angel with a smiley face as well.
And do you know, the poor Ma’ and Da’ would only be gone to bed when the older sister and the brothers would shake us little ones out of our sleep and carry us quietly down the stairs to see what Santy had brought for us. And there would be all the presents beautifully wrapped and laid out with out individual names written on pieces of paper and placed on the presents. And do you know what, Santy used to write the exact same way as the Da’, isn’t that strange or what? Well now, wait till I tell you what, when I opened my present there it was, a little Cowboy Suit with a hat and a shiny silver gun in a plastic holster, I was so excited that I started crying. Then I put my hand into my stocking that was on the floor beside the fire and I took out a whole orange, I was laughing and crying all at the same time.
Now, that’s what Christmas is all about for me and I thought of all this when I came across this photograph that I took some years ago…’

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